As Carl Trueman recently said, I am about to switch my blogging flamethrower to ‘Total Righteous Destruction’. Before I do so, allow me to list a few quotations from a VOA news piece by Sahar Sashar entitled, “Skateboarding Class at New York School Empowers Teen Girls.” My take on this educational disaster has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with education.
The “empowering bond of skater culture”:
“[A]t East Side Community High School in New York City, young women, too, are learning to experience the thrills and spills of skateboarding and the empowering bond of skater culture throught a one-of-a-kind class. “Well, since, we got skateboarding in school, before I didn’t really know how to skateboard or anything, so when I came here I learned a lot,” says student Jade Fellows.”
This next bit belongs in the “I swear I am not making this up” category:
“The class teaches the fundamentals of skateboarding and also inspires the girls to continue improving their skills.
“The first time I stepped on the skateboard, I fell, and I thought, ‘I’m going to get back up and try again,'” says student Michelle Whitaker. “And now I’m skateboarding fast. And Billy was really proud of me ’cause I did that. ‘Cause I learned how to skateboard… in the matter of two weeks.”
Assistant Principal Tom Mullen is encouraged:
“Assistant Principal Tom Mullen has also noticed a change in the girls and boys of the class – and not just skateboarding skills.
“I’ve seen the kids feeling better about themselves. A lot more confidence. I think it’s because they tried something new. They practiced at it. They feel themselves getting better at it. And that builds confidence.”
Finally, everyone is “learning”:
“Having a proactive role model has helped the students to value discipline and taught them that through skateboarding, they can break many boundaries in their lives.
“We have opportunity to do things, so that’s why I’m taking it,” says Michelle Whitaker. “So I can try something new, and I’m a girl, and a lot of girls don’t do this. I really learned a lot by skateboarding.”
And that dull thud you just heard was the corpse of the Western intellectual spirit crashing to the ground. Or, to put it differently, if a civilization falls over in the forest, does anyone hear it?
Let’s pause, though, to note a few positives here. I’m glad that students have a good role model in the instructor who cares for them; I’m glad for an after-school program that seeks to help children; I am happy for kids to have fun and try new things; I’m glad that children are learning to challenge themselves and try new experiences.
I’m all for hard sciences classes and the like–home ec, shop, etc–as they can be very helpful. This class is in another class, though. No, it’s in another universe. The Western mind is crumbling, and it’s because we’re not worried about teaching students actual content anymore–“learning” in an old-fashioned sense, for those of you scoring at ome–but about “self-esteem” and “believing in yourself.” Note the slippery use of “learning” at numerous places in the article–it is a word redefined with nary a second thought. Why exactly is a school, charged with the cultivation of the mind, helping a student to do kickflips?
This is why kids don’t read; this is why so many can’t think and write and use grammar correctly; this is why our society is getting stupider. We have replaced knowledge with feelings and academic instruction with morally uplifted therapy. Kids know nothing, but they feel great. Charles Sykes’s excellent Dumbing Down Our Kids makes this point with force and a dash of fury.
I don’t think that this one little school with its skateboarding class is singlehandedly destroying the Western mind (you’re glad to know that, I’m sure). But this stream of thought from which classes like this come is doing its fair share to inhibit the flourishing of our society. Drinking a mixture of entitlement, self-help thought, presentism, and laziness, and chasing it with a few liters of old-fashioned stupidity, we are allowing our intellectual and moral social foundation to crumble. We don’t teach Socrates, we teach skateboarding, and then we wonder why all teens want to do is watch tv, surf the Internet, text ad naseum, and play XBox.
I don’t see where major pushback will come from. I do have hope that as Christians, we will educate our children with excellence, and push them to live challenging, intellectually stimulating lives. This will involve turning off the tv, spending significant time with them, majorly curbing Internet usage, pushing them out the door to play, not buying an endless stream of gadgets, driving them to read and think and write on a regular basis, and not being selfish with our own time. The more parents that do this, the better.
But I’m not holding out a lot of hope here. The Western mind has fallen–I heard it tripped over a skateboard.